Gold Key issue 5 (September 1969), “The Ghost Planet,” serves up equal helpings of a classic Star Trek moral quandary and prime Gold Key nonsense. In “Galaxy Zelta” the Enterprise comes across some Saturn-like rings which may conceal a planet at the center. They cross through a turbulent “two lunar miles” of the rainbow-colored rings and behold, they find a planet. But why they couldn’t simply see the planet above and below the rings? And why take the ship through the turbulent rings instead of taking a course over or under them?
Now that they’re at the planet, they find it abandoned, with signs of a recent war. Shortly after beaming down, robots escort the landing party to a room where they speak via view screen to the Twin Supremes of the planet, Justin I and Justin II. They explain that a “lunar sun ago”—one of the more meaningless pairings of spacey words in the series so far—the rings appeared, emitting “copper radiation” that endangered the lives of everyone on the planet. They were able to build two giant orbiting space stations to which the inhabitants evacuated (two giant space stations the Enterprise somehow failed to detect).
Kirk and Spock promise to do all they can to destroy the rings so the natives can return to their planet from the overcrowded space stations. However, the landing party then finds proof that prior to the arrival of the rings, the factions led by Justin I and II had been in a deadly war with each other. If the Enterprise leaves them on the overcrowded stations, they will die of starvation; if they free them, they will likely plunge back into war on their planet! It’s a great Star Trek no-win scenario. Kirk threatens to leave them die out on the stations, and the Justins promise they have no weapon left and will not go back to war.
Now the Enterprise uses magnetic generators to draw the rings away from the planet, but the ship isn’t strong enough. They need to add the power of both of the stations’ magnetic fields to their own, leading to this fabulous bit of dialogue: “It’s working Mr. Spock! We’re sucking in the magnetic fields!” The rings break away from the planet, shooting toward the Enterprise “at the speed of sound.” Why would mysterious rings being magnetically pulled travel through the vacuum of space travel at the speed of sound? You’re guess is as good as mine.
After the rings are gone, Kirk leads a landing party to the planet to make sure everything’s fine before the Unoites return. (Did I mention their planet is called Numero Uno?) But this time they discover a stockpile of weapons; well, two stockpiles, conveniently labeled “Property Justin I” and “Property Justin II.” The two leaders have been conspiring together to mislead Kirk so that they could get back to war on the planet! This is also classic Star Trek, making a profound statement on the irrational lengths people will go to simply to fight one another, no matter how pointless the situation. In fact, once the Justins realize they’ve been found out, they continue cooperating for the purpose of killing the landing party, although it’s unclear how that’s to their advantage at this point.
Anyhoo, Spock is able to bluff them with an optical illusion of the rings reappearing in the sky, convincing the Unoites that the Enterprise can now control the rings at will and, hence, whether or not the planet is inhabitable. The Justins surrender again, the landing party destroys the stockpiles of weapons, and Kirk and the gang fly away, convinced they’ve stopped a war and saved a civilization. But I for one still don’t trust the Justins.
Favorite exclamation: Kirk’s “The lying space scum!”